Link Building 101: How to Evaluate the Power of Directories

by Paul Teitelman October 7th, 2008 

As previously mentioned in part 1 of this series, it's extremely important to be able to evaluate the power of a directory for link building. Especially when you consider that the power of a directory listing is much more complicated than just looking at the PR of the directory homepage.

Hence, the goal of this post is to train the average SEO enthusiast how to quickly and effectively evaluate the power of general directories through link analysis and evaluation. The post is going to focus on the power of general directories because they are much more prevalent than niche directories; which obviously are powerful if your in the same niche. At the end of the day, there are hundreds of directories (both paid and free) that you can submit too, so you need to know how to quickly evaluate the power of these directories in order to make the most out of your time and money. Efficiency is key!

Without much further ado, here's a list of the 7 most important criteria to look for when evaluating the power of general directories:

1.) Check the PR of the directory: Although PR isn't everything; this is hands-down the fastest and easiest way to judge the power of any directory. As a general rule of thumb, any directory at PR 5 or above has good authority, while anything below a PR 3 has low authority.

2.) Check whether domain ranks in Google: This important test identifies if the directory has been penalized by Google. Simply go to Google and type in the directory domain name (without spaces); they should appear #1 unless the domain is targeting highly competitive keywords (should still be on first page). If they don't appear at all and Google suggests a different search term, then they have been penalized by Google.

3.) Indexability and last time cached: This quick check-up is to determine how often the Google bots are indexing the sub-page's content. Just go to Google, and enter a cache query (cache: For a directory sub-page, a good cache date would be within 1-2 weeks, but no longer than 1 month. A higher frequency of cache dates indicate that the site is more powerful and authoritative.

4.) Number (and quality) of inbound links: Is a fairly simple measure of the overall power and authority associated with the directory. The higher the better. Being listed in DMOZ wouldn't hurt either :)

5.) Number of outbound links and PR of sub-pages: When choosing a category to submit too, relevancy is the most important factor to consider. But oftentimes, a submission could go in several categories. In these cases, in order to choose the best sub-page or category to submit too, you need to look at the sub-page's PR and also the number of outbound links. One of the most telling signs of an authority directory is if they have PR sub-pages, because Google loves to take the second level PR away from directories.

So, if you find a directory sub-page of PR 3 or higher: the directory is carrying a good amount of power, authority and Google credibility. The second point to consider is the number of outbound links on the sub-page. In many cases there will be so many listings that you won't even get on the first sub-page of your selected category. You need to keep this in mind when deciding which category to submit too. You want to submit to the sub-page that has a low number of outbound links to ensure that your link gets the most link juice available.

6.) Does the directory have sitewide links in Google?: When you search for the directory's domain name do they have sitewide links under their listing? If yes, this signifies that the directory has high authority in Google's eyes.


7.) Check appearances at public events and industry conventions: The theory behind this test is simple; if the directory owners can afford to advertise in key industry events (SES and SMX for example) then they obviously have a long-term strategy and are an authority. Obviously this rule isn't set in stone, but being at these events is a pretty clear indication of a powerful directory.

There's also one more test, but it takes more time as it's a bit more advanced because it can be time intensive. The anchor text test is a great way to determine the power of a directory by measuring the link juice that the directory passes on to your anchor text. Here's how to execute the anchor text text:

- First you need to find a unique anchor text within a sub-category (that isn't mentioned on the site's homepage)

- Next, check to see how that site ranks for that specific keyword(s) in the SERP's

This test doesn't take into consideration the other link building efforts of the client, but it is an effective way to attempt to measure the link juice being sent from the directory to your site (or client's site). The hardest part is finding the unique anchor text, because most of these anchors would most likely be targeting their site's competitive keywords, which would be mentioned on the homepage. But this isn't always the case, hence why the anchor text test can be very useful when you are trying to gauge the power of a link within a directory.

Another thing to keep in mind with the power of directory submissions is the featured listing or premiere listing option that enables your listing to be placed at the top of your desired sub-category for some extra dough. Is it worth it? Personally, I don't see much value in these type of listings unless the sub-page has PR and a lot of outbound links. In this case, a regular submission wouldn't get you on the first page of the category, so it would be worth paying an extra $20 or so because without it, your link won't be getting the same "juice" as it would be if placed on that desired subpage with PR.

Remember to keep this quick checklist in mind when considering which directories to submit too, and also be sure to check out the last part of this series which will cover potential downfalls and other mistakes to avoid when making directory submissions.

Paul Teitelman

I'm a SEO Manager here at SEP and am responsible for overseeing the organic ranking of clients for their major keywords. When I'm not in front of computers my main passions are drumming, hockey and hanging out up north at my cottage in Muskoka.

You May Also Like

36 Responses to “Link Building 101: How to Evaluate the Power of Directories”

  1. Michael D says:

    This is great Paul, especially since I launched a new directory this year. After going through your suggestions I noticed it fails on #6 which reminded me there is no sitemap. Time to remedy that.

  2. SoLinkable says:

    And how exactly do directories as a whole fair now that Google has taken them off the webmaster's central page?

  3. Eva White says:

    This is a great check list for a directory. I am sure it will be very useful as a quick reckoner.

  4. Paul, your criteria of choosing a good directory offers a good assessment on smaller web directories.

  5. Looks like everyone and their brother are starting and promoting directories. Thanks for the good overview. I will use it and come back for more.

  6. kouji says:

    your sitewide links tip's pretty interesting. a rather quick way to help get a sense of how well a directory is doing in the eyes of google.

  7. Doug Heil says:

    Paul, Huh? I almost don't agree with any of those checks at all.

    1. No way do I care what the toolbar PR is.

    2. Whether of not a domain comes up on a search like that has almost nothing to do with if it's been penalized or not.

    3. I don't care when a directory was crawled last.

    4. Inbound links have almost nothing to do with the quality.

    5. Subpages PR is NOT a sign of quality at all.

    6. This might be a sign of quality, although it's not something I stress over.

    7. This must be a joke, right?

    My goodness; and this is being spinned at that spin site? You missed the very most important things to check for. I'm certainly not going to be the one to list all of them either.

  8. Paul Teitelman says:

    @Michael… Thanks I'm really glad you got some value in the post and best of luck with your directory!

    @SoLinkable… I think you are referring to Google's webmasters guidelines. Yes, they did remove a little line or two saying submit to Dmoz and other directories, but that doesn't mean that directory submissions aren't still a powerful strategy for link building. But going forward it looks like it may start to lose their power or at least that is what Google wants us to believe.

    @Doug… I'm sorry you don't agree with the checklist, but I stand by it as a quick and effective way to measure the power of a directory. There are obviously a plethora of check-ups to do, but then you wouldn't remain efficient which in this competitive industry is absolutely essential.

    You'd be shocked by the quality of the submissions at Sphinn, some are amazing, some aren't as good as others, and some that go hot offer absolutely no information at all, but don't knock Sphinn: you always get a nice variety of good content. I'm guessing you didn't sphinn this post then :)

    Looking forward to your future post on how to evaluate the power of links, I'll be the first one to sphinn it!

  9. […] Hi there – it looks like you're new here. Welcome! If you like what you read, I'd really appreciate it if you could subscribe to my feed. Make yourself at home :)Directory submissions still play a major role in most link building campaigns. But how can we be sure that a directory is worth submitting to, particularly if we have to pay a submission or annual membership fee? There is more to evaluating the worthiness of a directory than just the page rank of its home page, as Paul Teitelman points out in his blog post titled Link Building 101: How to Evaluate the Power of Di…. […]

  10. SoLinkable says:

    I took it to mean that they may even begin (in the future) to penalize those who choose to do mass submissions to directories or those who are submitting to directories already penalized for selling links.

  11. VMOptions says:

    Nice post Paul, and certainly a good checklist to determine if a directory is "good." I would also add that many directories seem to stuff links in the footer or sidebar. Avoid paying review fees in directories that appear to be selling links.

  12. SEO Help says:

    Great post! I have overlooked a few of the points you outlined here, and hope to address them as soon I manage to drag myself away from some software project.

    Thanks again :)

  13. Michael says:

    Great information about posting to directories. Directories can help in building up a site, especially when you follow the ways that you provided.

  14. Great post and I just wanted to pipe in and say I've been trying to only get into directories that are at least 2 years of age. I've also almost stopped submitting to directories as obviously there's almost no reason other than to influence rankings, and the big G doesn't want that. I imagine since they just took out getting inclusion into DMOZ and Yahoo DIR is a strong sign of the times.

  15. I think you should add this:
    – check that the directory outlinks are dofollow
    – check the PR of the page where your web site will be listed…

  16. not sure if link building key is submitting to directories.

    I'm sure there's more than that, and that's "old fashion".

  17. Very useful post – I wasn't fully aware of the ower of directories, but will certainly be increasing my efforts in getting listed over the coming weeks. Will report back with my findings!

  18. Most of the time people tend to go by the PR. But what matters the most is the PR of the page where you niche blog/site is listed. Mostly it will be a PR0.

    Another issue: Most directories are not searchable easily. Of course there are some search facility available everywhere but then the results are not properly displayed in a readable/easily selectable way.

    I stopped submitting to directories!


  19. Great post, thanks a lot for the help, I am currently only adding my links to social networking sites as I thought Google frowned upon directories!!!

  20. THanks for the info on how to evaluate directories…I just want to ask..I 've read an article before that directories that have reciprocal linking is not a good directory and that it's not worth the try..what do you think about this? Is this true?

  21. Wil Reynolds says:

    Ahhh, the sitelinks…what a great call!!

    Good, smart, call. Thanks for sharing. You know, its funny how important 101 things are even for the most seasoned seo's. Again thanks for sharing.

  22. bob says:

    I agree with number one … so my website down 0 turbulence backlink less …

  23. Paul Teitelman says:

    @everyone… Thanks for your kind words, glad you were all able to extract some value from this post. Even though it's a simple checklist: it is very effective and even more importantly, very efficient.

    Thanks for adding in your tips too; (soLinkable, VMoptions, Ajith, improve seo, link building) makes the post even more useful!

    @Wil.. reciprocal directories aren't recommended because reciprocal linking isn't the safest strategy. Furthermore, they are downright abusing the reciprocal linking (OK if used in moderation) strategy, and therefore devaluing their entire directory. My advice? Don't waste your time with reciprocal directories. The info you read was bang on!

  24. anybody knows a good list of directories? most list are full of crap

  25. Draguer says:

    Thanks a lot for the information. I knew directories were important for the ranking but didn't really know which one to apply to and how to rank them.

  26. Link building directories are only as powerful as the strength of their foundation. Some of them are almost useless, while certain ones can provide a tangible benefit for the user.

  27. Bravo Paul. I'm making the checklist part of the daily life, bro.

  28. Thanks a lot for this information. btw i'm interesting about your do follow comment plugin. it is awesome, it looks like if commenter comment for more than 10 times their link will set dofollow. thats cool.
    can you tell me what is the name of this plugin? please send me your answer by email. thanks

  29. Gil says:

    Nice article Paul. I think directories are a very useful link building tool. The PR is important, but new directories will increase in PR if they do a good job of screening for good quality submissions. I have passed on some directories, because their categories are too broad or too general and the quality of the sites they have listed are very poor in my estimation.

  30. […] Link Building 101: How to Evaluate the Power of Directories […]

  31. DavidMTL says:

    Very great list, although one important point is missing : can the directory send me quality and relevant traffic?

  32. DavidMTL says:

    Oh and one more thing, a good rule of thumb when submitting directories is to consider the following formula: the easier it is to get into the directory, the more limited are its benefits.

  33. Paul Teitelman says:

    @ Colocation… check out my latest post! I think you may like it :)

    @Breeders… glad to hear man make the most of it!

    @Bali… the plugin is called Lucia's Linky Love; it's a great way to deter spammers but still dish out the dofollow love!

    @Gil and David… thanks for some great feedback; generally agree with both of your comments. In terms of the directory sending quality traffic? NOT EVEN CLOSE.

  34. […] Link Building 101: How to Evaluate the Power of Directories […]

  35. […] Can Google Solve the Social Monetization Puzzle?Google PR Down the Toilet? — Don't PanicEvaluate the Power of Directories — Link Building 101Facebook Integrates and Endorses Live Search — It's […]